By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians



Giro d'Italia Champions
Living and Dead


Serene and in control, Ivan Basso dominated the climb up Monte Bondone to win today's stage


CyclingRevealed's Giro Perspective

Tappa 16, May 23rd, Rovato to Trento (Monte Bondone), 180 km

Only Angels Need Apply!

The citizens of Trento fondly remember Chary Gaul 's epic day on Monte Bondone in the 1956 Giro.

Charly Gaul (The Angel of the Mountains) rode what is still considered to be one of the greatest races of all time up to Monte Bondone. He started that fateful day in the 1956 Giro way back in 11th and more than 16mins back on GC. As the race started to ascend Monte Bondone blizzard conditions greeted the riders. Gaul seemed impervious to the weather and in his usual fluid style left everyone for dead behind him. Some riders were diving into farm buildings to escape the elements and others were accepting hot drinks or plunging frozen hands into hot water offered by fans. Many others simply abandoned to escape frost bite and misery. That day 46 of the remaining 89 starters left the race. Blue with cold, Gaul's reward for his incredible stage win was the Pink Jersey which he then held to Milan . Gaul 's ride ranks as one of the most astounding athletic feats of all time. Today Trento honors the memory of that day by naming the climb and a special ‘cyclotourist' ride in Charly's name.

With the prevailing weather over recent days and especially remembering the conditions on Stage 13's climb up the Colle San Carlo, many were fearing a day reminiscent of that epic 1956 Giro stage. With four climbs on today's menu, the weather was potentially going to be a huge factor but luckily for the riders it was kind to them.

There were three serious climbs before the killer finish up Monte Bondone. An early break was anticipated but surprisingly it consisted of just one man. At 37kms Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare escaped and stayed out on his own for 112kms before being caught just before the race reached the Bondone. While Rubiano had been capturing hours of TV exposure for his sponsors, the bunch cruised along ‘tranquilo' behind him averaging a very slow 26.5kmph.

So it all came down to the final mountain. On the lead in CSC created its own blizzard by setting a horrendous pace at the front. Their former Cippollini lead-out man Giovanni Lombardi ignited the action. When he blew Inigo Cuesta took over as they hit early very steep ramps. Like spring snow the peloton was melting around CSC and with 15km of climbing to go there were just 25 mostly grim looking riders hanging on to the torrid pace. Suddenly Leanardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) attacked. The remains of the bunch immediately fragmented as Savoldelli, Cunego and Di Luca slipped backwards.

Now it developed into a battle between CSC (Basso and Sastre) and Saunier Duval (Simoni and Piepoli) with Gutierrez (Phonak) trying to preserve his second place on GC and a few other riders hanging tough with the leading contenders. With shades of an Armstrong led Discovery team, Basso now had Sastre driving the survivors of the race up the mountain at a leg shattering pace.

Basso and Simoni in the lead [ Image ©: ]

Piepoli made another probe attack with Simoni on his wheel. With apparent little concern Basso eased up to Simoni's wheel and then rode to the front and only Simoni can stay with him. With about 6km to go Basso looks across at Simoni and then simply rides away. Not quite the Armstrong / Ullrich “look” but not far off it. Maybe borrowing Gaul 's angel's wings for the day, Basso majestically soared away from the race putting huge time into everybody. He crossed the line looking serene and smiling gently without the slightest hint of the day's race effort on his face. Scary!

Basso! [ Image ©: ]

On GC Basso is now 5'24" ahead of second place Gutierrez, 9'17" ahead of third place Savoldelli and 9'34" ahead of fourth place Simoni. Thereafter you need binoculars to see the rest of the field. The next four days dish up a formidable cocktail of severe climbing but surely now nobody can question Basso's ability to suppress all challengers. Perhaps the only lingering doubt is whether he can stay on top of his game until Milan and thus claim his first Grand Tour. Should he achieve that then we are seeing Armstrong's Tour de France successor. Sorry Jan.

When it comes to climbers Luxembourg 's Charly Gaul (The Angel of the Mountains) and Spain's Federico Bahamontes (The Eagle of Toledo) rank as the all-time best. Today we saw some terrific racing up ‘Gaul 's mountain' but with all due respect none of the current climbers can claim to be ‘Angels' or ‘Eagles'. However as the church bells rang in Trento Ivan Basso certainly gained angel wings as he soared away from everyone else.

Tomorrow: the much anticipated mountain top finish on the Plan de Corones with its final 5.5km on unpaved road. En route from the start in Termeno, the 158km stage takes in two other huge climbs. Don't miss this one, check back here tomorrow.



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